Shirtcuff jottings

Some odds and ends -- an uncle had a box full of randoms up on the top shelf of his workshop, and it was marked, ''Items not worth keeping:''

Fellow was telling how his boy flunked one of these match-'em tests in school. One word makes you think of another, and this tests your associations. Long ago when those tests were first used, I saw one that had a picture of a horse and a picture of a wagon. The alert pupil was to match up the horse with the wagon. All the city children did, but the country youngsters didn't, and the teachers marked all the country youngsters stupid. Trouble was, it was a single horse, and the wagon was fitted with a tongue for a double hitch. Who grades teachers? So this fellow said his son flunked. The word was ''tap,'' and the tyke wrote ''pickle.'' Teacher spoke to the old man about it; said the boy seemed slow. He says, ''Why, what's wrong with that?'' She patronizingly explained that there was no logical way for the word tap to bring forth the word pickle. The old man says, ''You don't have a grandfather on a farm in New Hampshire who taps trees, makes maple syrup, and feeds you plain doughnuts, syrup, and sour pickles, do you?''

On a recent visit to New Brunswick, we found good old Scots breakfast porridge had joined the crowd. Such has been long gone here in the States, but real oatmeal lived on in New Brunswick, and a sensitive tourist could pause at about any restaurant and refind his lost youth. Cooked all night, it came steaming with farm cream and Crosby molasses, and anybody with a touch of the Highlands in his veins could smack away and recollect lost lore. No more. The menus we saw on this visit has ''rolled oats'' and under that they said: (Instant)

Another New Brunswick item and sad news for the metric buffs! Just over the line from Maine is a big sign that says all highway distances and speed limits in New Brunswick are expressed in kilometers. So we asked how far to a comfortable inn with a proper dining room, and the policeman said, ''Just six miles.''

And we learned of another reason for the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin to prove a dud. Canadians are paying good exchange on Yankee money, but not on the Susie coins. They don't pay the exchange on any coins -- just bills.

After some 40 years of good relationship, my favorite hardware store notified me that credit would no longer be extended. Not just me -- everybody; new cash and carry rule. But the notice added that major credit cards would, of course, continue to be accepted. Well, I wonder. . . . How about a store that will pay 5 cents on the dollar for the delayed collection of current accounts, but turns down my personal check which is prompt, regular, ample, and good at any bank immediately for the full amount shown? I hope some computer machine blows a fuse trying to answer that.

My guess is that instead of contributing of themselves, the businessmen who consort with electronic assistance absorb from the machines perhaps a kind of reverse osmosis. I had no luck this past season with my sweet peas. Generally mine do well and every fine afternoon I carry a fistful to the house to gladden the scene. But this year the things sprouted well enough, climbed to 5-6-7-feet, and never threw a bud. Beautiful plants, but nary a blossom. Puzzled, I wrote to my seedsman: what did I do wrong? Evidently he has aligned himself on the push-button side, because his reply was a form that thanked me for my interest and a check for 60 cents -- the price of the seeds last spring. I could have had all that help by talking to my lawn mower, and when I showed the check to my wife she said, ''I'd sooner have sweet peas.'' I concluded my seedsman's sweet pea seeds were no bloomin' good, and that his investment in a computerized office staff spares him the embarrassment of admitting it.

Harold, my lobsterman friend, came off his mooring lately push-rowing his skiff. Seated, facing astern, and pulling the oars is the elegant and seaworthy way, but many Maine coastal people stand, facing forward, and push. They know where they've been, and prefer to see where they're going. So Tom saw Harold push-rowing and he called, ''Never see you push-row before -- didn't know you knew how!'' Harold called back, ''Seat's wet.''

When I mailed my personalized Halloween pumpkins to the grandsons, each with an embossed name on it, I marked the bundle, ''Reading Matter - Sp. 4th Cl. Rate.'' (Postmaster guessed not.)

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